Iraq Prelate Laments Widespread Kidnappings

Says Problem Receives Too Little Media Attention

BAGHDAD, Iraq, AUG. 27, 2008 ( Iraq has a problem beside suicide bombings and political instability, and it receives too little media attention, affirmed an archbishop in Baghdad: There is a growing wave of kidnappings.

Archbishop Jean Sleiman, who ministers to Iraq’s small Latin-rite Catholic community, told Aid to the Church in Need that a steady stream of families and friends of kidnapped people appeal to him for help. He said he has urged the government to stop the problem, and affirmed that Christians feel particularly at risk.

Archbishop Sleiman said there are “countless” reports of missing people, though he contended that the media and government are relatively silent on the issue.

“We have more problems, especially kidnapping,” the prelate said. “The media ignores this matter. […] It is important to ask the government to pay attention to these issues and not only the general political situation.”

Archbishop Sleiman suggested that money is the main motive for the kidnappings, but that religious extremism is also often an important factor, especially in the abduction of Christians.

The archbishop recounted that last Tuesday, he met a Christian man whose brother-in-law and son had been kidnapped and found dead a month later.

That meeting came barely 24 hours after he received a visit from a woman who begged for money for her 19-year-old daughter, kidnapped with a ransom request of $20,000.

The archbishop said: “It is not only Christians who are targeted but other groups. And yet the Christians feel the injustice of the situation very keenly because they have never played any part in the conflict within the country.”

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